Playing Tea Party with the kids (and Dick Morris!), playing favorites with dog breeds and paying the Chinese for VA construction. God bless Orlando.
Published: February 3, 2011
We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into last Wednesday, Jan. 26. All we had were little stray threads of information: There would be a poster-waving teacher protest at a rally for the privatization of education (yawn), and because it was to involve the shiny Astroturf of teabaggery known as Americans for Prosperity, we just had to be there. OK, we tugged at an after-work glass of wine. How bad could it be?
Outside the Plaza Theater, where the event was held, the assembled mass of progressives and teachers and kids – brought to you by the folks at Florida Action Watch, Organize Now and Progress Florida – chanted “Education! Not more corporations!” at passing cars, while sundry blue-hairs who haven’t even considered public schools in, say, 50 years shuffled their way inside for an “Education Revolution.” Standard stuff, then. That is until toe-fetishist to the dancing Republican stars, Dick-motherfuckin’-Morris (trailed by his own camera crew), crawled out of nowhere to extend an olive branch.
“We’d like a representative from your side to speak at the event,” he told protesters, before crumbling into a noticeable hissy-fit over whatever makes Dick Morris unhappy.
We snuck inside a few minutes early, just in time to tap our toes with the octogenarian set to the Oak Ridge Boys’ “American Made.” (With all due hilarity, Americans for Prosperity provided participants with 100 percent polyester “National School Choice Week” scarves made in China.) Video screens overhead aired Fox News highlight reels from recent Tea Party events that included “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, Michele Bachmann and a little old lady saying, “We’re taking America back. You can bet your boots on that!” Scary. By the time the protesters were allowed in, the videos and music were shut down because this kind of white-people indoctrination is not meant to be witnessed by outsiders, and this was supposed to be a presentation on school choice for pretty youngsters.
It was not. Instead, what we got was a talk radio blowhard (Mike Gallagher from WORL 660 AM), a homeschooling Tea Party congressional failure (Patricia Sullivan), an Abramoff casualty straight out of the Christian Coalition (Ralph Reed) and Morris, all tiptoeing around the issue of failing public schools with charmless (and ill-informed) rhetoric. Mike Cahill, president of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, was given a few minutes to make no real points to an unforgiving anti-union room, and then everything descended into taglines and paranoia.
Sullivan referred to public schools as “government schools,” probably because they taste like cheese, and bemoaned drug deals in the hallways. Reed pulled out the old Republican psychology book and argued that public school kids were likely to end up in jail or hooked on booze (like gays!). Also, “ … maybe they don’t know who their father is.” You get the drift. Back in the days of George Wallace, minorities weren’t let into public schools; now they won’t let the black kids out! It’s a living nightmare.
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